Brain injury - hospital discharge & return home
The return home from hospital after a brain
injury is usually eagerly awaited by family members. Here are some
handy tips for making it a smooth transition.
The degree of changes a family may have to make will depend on
the degree of brain injury. For example, in the case of a severe
traumatic brain injury, the family may be taking on a full
time caring role and need a wide range of supports. With a mild
brain injury, a nearly complete recovery may be expected but the
family may need to assist the person with ongoing rehabilitation at
home for behavioural issues and cognitive changes such as memory
Hospital discharge information
Upon discharge, the hospital should provide you with a wide
range of information on topics such as:
- Prescriptions and medications
- Cognitive changes and how to respond appropriately
- Symptoms of any complications that could need urgent
- Activities to avoid and for how long (e.g. work, driving,
If you have not received this information, contact the hospital.
Often the social worker will be able to help best with obtaining
The first few days after discharge
- Ensure someone stays with the person for the first two
- Make sure you can easily contact emergency services if
- Don't drink any alcohol.
- Rest as much as possible and don't rush into
Important symptoms to watch out for
Learn as much as you can about brain disorders such as
traumatic brain injury. There are various symptoms
that are very normal after a brain injury such as headaches,
inability to concentrate, fatigue, depression, memory problems and
poor sleep. These generally do not require medical treatment but if
you have any concerns consult your doctor.
However there are symptoms that could indicate urgent treatment
is needed. Examples of these include:
- Any unconscious episodes or fits
- Increased disorientation or loss of balance
- Loss of hearing in one or both ears
- Changes in vision
- Sudden difficulty understanding or speaking
- Paralysis or weakness in the limbs
- Bleeding from the ears, or clear fluid from ears or nose
- Severe headaches not relieved by paracetamol.
The family plays a key role in ongoing rehabilitation after
hospital discharge and any formal period of rehabilitation are
over. If the rehabilitation team has not provided any information
on how the family can help in the long term, contact them for this
In some cases, a person returns home after a brain injury and
has unrealistic expectations about how soon they can return to
activities such as work and driving, if at all. The family may need
to help the person slowly come to terms with their abilities and
how long recovery may take, especially if self-awareness has been
affected (see our
Self-awareness fact sheet).
Fatigue is an extremely common problem after a brain injury, and
it's common to experience several days of extreme fatigue simply by
overdoing activities. Family members often need to monitor how much
a person is doing in order to avoid fatigue, and ensure regular
rest breaks are taken. Providing a structured daily routine will
greatly reduce stress for the person with the brain injury and help
them manage their low energy reserves.
Challenging behaviours such can emerge after the return home due
to various cognitive changes. These can be very difficult for the
family but having consistent appropriate responses to these
behaviours can make a significant difference. Most rehabilitation
specialists recommend avoiding alcohol for at least two years, if
not permanently, after a significant brain injury. See our
introduction to challenging behaviours fact sheet.
Support for family members
Family members may have to take on new roles and
responsibilities. For example, a person may now have to take on the
role of bread winner or full time parenting for the first time.
Children may find they need to help out around the house more. It
is important to obtain as much support for the family as possible
to ensure your own health in the long-term and provide consistent
support. Contact your Brain Injury Association for all the
available supports in your area.